Having recently attended the Critical Pedagogies Symposium at the University of Edinburgh, the Alternative Art College has learnt a few new words and is prepared for its latest exploits. The two main topics of the day were radical alternatives to the marketisation of education and decolonising practices within education. During the day there was two longer lectures, the first from Heidi Safia Mirza entitled Decolonizing Pedagogies and the second by Joyce Canaan entitled Building alternatives to the neoliberal university. As well as this there was a roundtable discussion on the subject of Education, Intersectionality and Social Change. Participants included Heidi Safia Mirza, Arethea Phiri, Janine Bradbury, Michelle Keown and Mike Shaw. Apart from the main attractions there was one panel that caught this AAC member’s attention. The panel was entitled: Educate, Agitate, Organise.
The first point of interest was Camila Camacho’s report on the marketization of education in Chile. As a student of education at the University of Chile, and a teacher in a public state secondary school in Santiago, she gave us a window into the fight against the privatisation of education. Since the 1980’s Chile’s higher education institutions have been constitutionally regulated but a shift in power towards municipal control has allowed market forces to enter the education system. As a result de-centralisation and fragmentation are occurring. The Chilean education system is currently divided into three; municipal schools, private ‘state’ sponsored schools and wholly private schools. Within municipal schools a lack of infrastructure improvements, and the rigid nature of the educational system, has meant the level of schooling one receives distorts the future of the individual. A series of occupations in 2011, have attempted to recast education, as not just a tool for social reproduction, but as Camila states, to create a space for teachers and students to be ‘happy and free’. We can’t argue with that.
Stephanie Spoto’s paper, reminded us of the anxiety of being an anarchist teacher in a state institution. It was a relief to hear an open discussion about the contradictions of being an anarchist in this position. The question that needs asking is, how much autonomy does the university offer? As the learner straddles the divide between the student and the customer, are teachers the pimps of the education system? Or can we avoid the commodification of radical theories of equality, making them into more than just theories.
Finally Fred Garnett’s presentation left us in awe. Through the melee of slides there was a new word for the AAC’s vocabulary, heutagogy. If you don’t know it, a quick read of the wikipedia page will fill you in. It certainly seems like something the Alternative Art College has been striving for, even if we didn’t know what the word was. Fred Garnet is involved with the project wikiquals. It is true, as Fred states, we don’t spontaneously learn from content delivery – without failing to point out that this is all a MOOC is. His description of US ‘Ivy League’ College’s use of these forums is insightful. As forms for globalising perspectives of knowledge, they are the newest strategy for western universities to continue their colonisation of global education formations. They certainly don’t resist the status quo of orientation to western centric systems of knowing. What is required from offline and online education resources is a space for epistemic cognition, allowing for emergent and diverse counter formations. Or heutagogy, we think. A learning commons perhaps. This certainly rings true with us at the AAC.